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Live Labs Blog: A Graduate Perspective

The Live Labs graduate team are the unsung heroes of the programme. Coming from the Commissioning Board partners, they have provided a huge amount of support across innovation, communications and programme management. Katie Metcalf, who has been part of Live Labs since August 2021, explains what involvement in Live Labs has meant for her and some of the other graduates.

From the moment I heard about Live Labs I was keen to get involved. The transportation industry is a key part of everyone’s daily life. Yet, despite there being huge areas which could be improved with new technologies and ideas, it seems like innovation and quick-change are not the norm. I loved that Live Labs addresses exactly that issue. The fast-paced nature and the focus on getting new technology into a position where it can be easily adopted is exciting, and its even better to see it applied to an area where it is so tangible. 

When I was asked to write this blog, I thought it would be good to speak to some other graduates who have been involved in the programme to get their views. We all agreed that we went into the programme with little knowledge of what was to come, having not been previously involved in this type of work. Richard (my predecessor) and I took on the role of Communications Lead, with responsibilities orientated around communication, organisation and management of meetings, blogs and social media accounts. Ayo has taken on the role of supporting Giles Perkins within the programme team.  

I asked them what made them want to be involved. For Richard Evans (Atkins) it was the opportunity to work alongside clients and be a part of a driving force to enable digital adoption. While Ayo Jenrola (WSP) told me Live Labs caught his attention as is it addresses the issue that the use of new and advancing technology in the highways sector has been lacking. 

During my time on the programme, I have been inspired by the willingness of the teams involved, and the wider industry to step up and embrace the innovation and change. I think it stands us in great stead for the second Live Labs programme, and a wider shift in attitude within transportation and beyond, to embrace new trials and technologies and understand the advantages and benefits which can be (and in many ways need to be) realised. 

Ayo highlighted that for him, the hard work and dedication from the various Live Labs teams to plan, execute and deliver some very interesting projects has been inspirational. Richard was inspired by the different technologies used and developed across the Labs such as the kinetic walkway (Buckinghamshire), use of drones to monitor road maintenance (Kent) and engagement with SME’s to identify innovative technologies (Staffordshire). Like me, he was inspired by the level of investment and the willingness of our industry to embrace change.

My time working on the programme has provided me with extremely valuable experience. The opportunity to be involved in very different types of work, such as organising and proofreading blogs or running the Twitter account have given me the opportunity to develop new skills. I’ve also felt myself grow in confidence, interacting with lots of new people, being involved in meetings with the Live Labs and the Live Labs Programme Team. It’s great to no longer be worried about having to chase people! 

Richard felt the most valuable experience he gained from the programme was improving his communication skills and gaining an appreciation of the importance of marketing on social media. He also found it helpful to get a better understanding of how the DfT allocates its money to organisations such as ADEPT to instigate change within the transportation industry. Ayo found that being able to network with various industry professionals and gain experience in how large-scale government funded programmes are run and executed has been valuable. 

Overall, being involved in the Live Labs programme has been great. I certainly recommend any graduates or early careers who may be considering a secondment or new project to take the leap and be involved in something totally different. It's a great way to learn new skills, network and provide clarity on the direction you want your career to take. I look forward to Live Labs 2 and seeing the innovation that will come about. 

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